7 ODDS 'N ENDS
1 - THE LAST WORD: Did I mention I dislike Sunday Roughrider games? They can make it difficult to get the MMG out on time with all the other coverage we do for each and every Rider contest (TV, radio, print and online). So now with just over 24 hours to digest Sunday's 42-40 overtime loss to the Toronto Argonauts at Mosaic Stadium, here are a few final thoughts before we turn our attention to Friday's date with the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.
On all those things, Chamblin's right. But it wasn't a win, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders are 0-2 for the first time in the Chamblin era. In fact the club has never lost a season-opener since Chamblin took over the Saskatchewan Roughriders prior to the 2012 campaign. So we're in uncharted territory.
Having watched the final quarter of Sunday's game over again, it's easy to see how the Riders saw their 10-point lead dwindle into a loss. Major fouls on the offensive line on the Riders' second-last drive, ineffective clock management on their final series which ended with the Brett Smith one yard touchdown plunge, and the fact they applied no pressure on Toronto QB Trevor Harris, allowing him to move the ball 85 yards with a minute to go to tie the game, all added up to the roof caving in.
So the Riders are 0-2 and have lost those games by a combined six points. Chamblin's correct that a few plays here and there in both games swung the outcome in the opposition's favour. The good news is that there appears to be more than enough adequate talent on this team - despite its rash of injuries - and there's plenty of weeks left to right the ship.
They just need to be used effectively and to be put in position to have success.
2 - K.G. SHINES: The statistic sticks out as clear as the nose on your face: the Roughriders are a combined 2-9 without Darian Durant. If nothing else, Darian's value to this team has been underscored in spades and it extends well beyond what he provides in the huddle. The Rider braintrust noticed this before anyone else and made him one of the highest-paid arms in the league in the spring of 2014.
That said, back-up Kevin Glenn has been out-of-this-world in relief. The 36-year old pivot enters Week 3 just 38 yards off the league lead in passing yards. Was his pick six at 5:34 of the fourth quarter on Sunday a killer? Absolutely. But it wasn't the reason for the loss. It didn't tie the game, but rather brought the Argos to within three points. There was plenty of time left to win the game.
Individually, Kevin has surpassed Matt Dunigan to become the CFL's 7th all-time leading passer and now he's 6,602 yards behind the greatest Roughrider Of 'Em All, Ron Lancaster, for #6. But there's one thing Kevin Glenn doesn't possess that the other nine in the Top 10 do: a Grey Cup ring. We'll examine his quest for a CFL championship in the weeks ahead, in other online columns.
3 - ENOUGH ALREADY!: I was one of the most vocal opponents of the CFL's nine rule changes when they were announced this spring - particularly the new Pass Interference restriction and its five yard bumper. However the rules are here to stay so enough with the belly-aching of how they've changed the game and made it virtually impossible to play man-to-man defense (Corey Chamblin's coverage of choice).
I read articles from all across the CFL covering every team and don't hear as much griping from other teams, their media or fans, about the new rules. Are those teams adapting quicker? To coin the over-used football term, "it is what it is". The Riders need to figure this out, and pronto.
And Andre Proulx's crew does not have it in for the Roughriders. There was a time a few years ago when a case could be made that Glen Johnson had some sort of gripe with the Green & White, but that's water under the Wascana Bridge.
Officiating did not cost the Roughriders the game on Sunday.
4 - THE PLAN: With the addition of Paul McCallum, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are now the CFL's oldest team. Montreal is #2. So obviously, at some point in time, you would think there has to be a plan to overhaul this roster in an off-season soon. I asked Roughrider GM Brendan Taman if McCallum fits into those long-term plans.
"My long term plan is to win right now," Taman stated. "Everybody keeps talking about the new stadium in two, three years from now and I've gotta keep that in the back of my mind. There's no doubt about that. But if we can't go make a field goal next week you ain't going to be talking to me to get to the new stadium. Somebody else will be be here so my goal is to win right now.
"If Paul goes and kicks 90% for the next two years, there's probably a good chance he will be kicking in the new stadium. There's no doubt about it. But this is a 'win now' business and if me and Corey are planning two years out from now, we're gonna be in trouble."
5 - THE LATEST ON DURANT: While I had Taman's ear, I asked him for an update on the injured Rider quarterback and the surgery to repair his torn left achilles tendon.
"The latest I can tell you is that he had his operation Friday at noon," Taman reported. "Jeremy O'Day traded texts with him Friday night and I think he got out of the hospital around 6:00 or 7:00. He's pretty sore from what I can gather so he'll be laid up for a few days but I think you'll probably see some comments from him early this week."
6 - WEEK 2 CFL NOTES: Hail the RedBlacks. Ottawa's CFL entry is one of two unbeaten teams in the CFL at 2-0. Who would have thought the balance of power is in the East? But remember, it's only July. But the RedBlacks overcame a rough start against B.C. on Saturday to post a 27-16 win and looked like a real football team. At one time I thought 'Are they this good or is B.C. this bad?' but they were able to choke the Lions off in the fourth quarter to win their home-opener. The game plan of rookie offensive coordinator Jason Maas was superb. And former Roughrider Zack Evans ended the threat by stuffing the Lions on a 3rd down gamble in the final minute. Ottawa is in position to go to 3-0 when they face the Mike Reilly-less Edmonton Eskimos Thursday night at Commonwealth ...
- Rookie quarterback Rakeem Cato will get the nod for the 1-1 Montreal Alouettes when they visit the 1-1 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Friday night. Much has been made about the Riders dropping Cato from their negotiation list in May and the Alouettes quickly snapping him up, and I'll explain that situation in my Wednesday column on the Riders' official website. However the Cato furor quickly went away once the Riders lost to Toronto ...
- The Riders can find quarterbacks. See Drew Willy, an original find of Riders Dir. of Player Personnel Craig Smith. Smith was also the first to lay eyes on Kory Sheets ...
- Bomber quarterback Drew Willy was back taking first team reps on Monday, just five days after having his notes scrambled by Hamilton's Adrian Tracy. Sportsnet's Arash Madani admonished the Bombers for having Willy on the field on Monday. I can't assume head coach Mike O'Shea would have Willy out there without medical approval.
- I've tabbed Friday's Roughriders-Lions showdown at B.C. Place as the Bad Blood Bowl as new Lions offensive coordinator George Cortez faces his former team for the first time while the Riders' Paul McCallum does the same. We'll have Lions colour commentator Giulio Caravatta on the SportsCage on Tuesday to preview the match. Giulio is the last Canadian quarterback to start a CFL game going back to 1996 ...
- There's a rare CFL Monday Night Football game in Week 3 as Toronto visits Calgary in a rematch of the 2012 Grey Cup. The Stampeders will have to shake off their poor outing against Montreal and block better up the middle for Grey Cup MVP Bo-Levi Mitchell ...
- The 1-1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats have the week off and it comes at a good time with seven injured starters. I still haven't received an adequate explanation for the Ticats going for a two point convert while up 29 points in the second half at Winnipeg Thursday night.
7 - HOCKEY NOTES: The Edmonton Oilers held an intrasquad game on Monday. They lost. But they filled the arena to watch #1 pick Connor McDavid who signed his first NHL deal on Friday ... Arizona Coyotes forward Boyd Gordon of Regina was on the SportsCage on Thursday discussing his trade from Edmonton. He admitted a pang of regret to be leaving Oil Country since they seem to be on the verge of something big but he admitted he got sick of losing ... The Kelowna Rockets lost their head coach, Dan Lambert, on Monday to the NHL's Buffalo Sabres where he'll be an assistant to Dan Bylsma. Right now the rumour mill suggests Ryan McGill will be the next head coach of the Rockets ... Congratulations to former Regina Pats forward Pavel Padakin who signed his first pro deal, with the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms, on Monday.
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THAT'S ALL! THANKS FOR WAITING...